How can Naomi Klein top No Logo, the most influential political polemic of the past 20 years? Her first book forensically studied the bloodstains that have splashed from the developing world’s factories and “export processing zones” on to our cheap designer lives - and it spurred the creation of the anti-globalisation movement. Today, she has produced something even bolder: a major revisionist history of the world that Milton Friedman and the market fundamentalists have built. She takes the central myth of the right - that, since the fall of Soviet tyranny, free elections and free markets have skipped hand in hand together towards the shimmering sunset of history - and shown that it is, simply, a lie.
In fact, human beings consistently and everywhere vote for mixed economies. They want the wealth that markets generate, but they also want them to be interbalanced by strong government action to make life in a market economy liveable. (Even Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were not permitted by their electorates to tinker with anything but the outer fringes of social regulation and the welfare state.) The right has been unable to accept this reality, and unable to defeat it in democratic elections. So in order to achieve their vision of “pure capitalism, cleansed of all interruptions”, they have waited for massive crises - when the population is left reeling and unable to object - to impose their vision.
Klein’s story begins with the market fundamentalists’ showroom: Chile. Milton Friedman, the apostle of pure unfettered capitalism, sent many of his finest students to Chile for years to spread the message that markets must be allowed to work their pristine logic unhindered by government. They persuaded virtually nobody. Their parties were thumpingly defeated, and the democratic socialist Salvador Allende was elected instead. So the CIA backed an anti-democratic coup by the fascist general Augusto Pinochet - and Friedman swiftly stepped in to design “the most extreme capitalist makeover ever attempted anywhere”, as Klein puts it.
And here's how it ends:
Klein’s account of this “disaster capitalism” is written with a perfectly distilled anger, channelled through hard fact. She has indeed surpassed No Logo. Today, this brilliant book should stir a tsunami of shame - and of political action by us to finally stop the shock “therapy”.
Now go read what's in between. You won't regret it.
Now what are we going to do about it?